Building a High-Performance Culture

Friday, August 13 2021

High-Performance Culture is a hot topic, and many organizations are creating strategic plans to drive toward it. These plans include Innovation Workshops, Employee Engagement Teams, and training after training. Often nothing changes, there is little innovation, and companies fall behind. What’s happening?

High-Performance Culture is not a myth! It is attainable, and the first step is understanding where you are in the process. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs holds a clue to one problem with culture change: most companies start at the top of the pyramid of needs, trying to get employees to be innovative, self-driven, and embrace ownership thinking (Self-actualization), when the fundamental needs aren’t yet met.

While most companies meet the basic physiological needs; many fall short at the second level – Safety. Of course, you have a health & safety program, but what are you doing to support psychological safety?

Psychological safety is about feeling secure enough to contribute fully within your environment. It’s knowing you won’t be punished or ridiculed for sharing ideas or making errors. People can’t achieve self-actualization in the workplace without feeling safe, both physically and psychologically. How safe is your workplace? If you’re a leader, it’s important that you understand how your team feels before you can start to drive best-in-class improvements.

In psychologically unsafe environments we see:

  1. Poor communication

Poor communication can trigger many other characteristics of an unsafe workplace. It is likely evident throughout the workplace: Leaders aren’t communicating to team members; team members aren’t communicating to leaders; and they certainly aren’t communicating to each other – except negatively.

  1. Insufficient feedback

Feedback is the way that we learn and grow. Without it, the organization and its employees stagnate, which is death to any organization.

  1. Leaders make all the decisions.

If people look to leaders for answers to every issue it usually indicates a level of fear about decision-making. Have leaders coached or allowed the team to make decisions?

  1. Too many meetings

And those meetings include EVERYONE! If people don’t feel safe making decisions and communication is poor, countless meetings are held with too many attending. No one wants to risk not including the correct decision-makers.

  1. Lots of CYA emails

Staff who fear blame for not communicating, or worry that information will be “forgotten” or misquoted, write “Cover Your Ass” emails.

  1. People, not processes, are blamed for errors and mistakes.

If they will be blamed, even mocked for errors, rather than congratulated for effort and coached for improvement, staff become afraid. This hinders creative solutions and stunts innovation.

Your strategic plan needs to address the psychological safety needs of your team. Once those needs are met, then you can start building a high-performance culture.